Dr. Potts already did a full-on review about Evoland, which you can read here, and I highly recommend it, and not only because we share the same space here in internetland, but because it's a good article. I however, after only just finishing the game not 10 minutes ago (upon writing this, not publishing today on Monday January 6th, 2014), wanted to give my own thoughts.
I really liked Evoland, although knowing from Dr. Potts that it was a short(ish) game probably helped in the development of my feelings. By "short," I expected the game to be somewhere between 2-5 hours in length, and it took me about 3.5 hours from start to finish, although some of that time was spent trying to raise levels only to realize that that didn't matter outside of overworld battles.
As the good Doctor stated, I too wish that more time was spent in the 2D pre N64/PS1 era. There was an area where you reverted back to Legend of Zelda (circa 1985), but that was only after you had been playing in 3D-Land for a while. One aspect of reverting back to 2D graphics, was that the music also switched back to the classic NES 8-bit tones, but the music itself was the same. I enjoyed hearing how the layering of instruments changed based on what "era" you were in.
But game length is very important here. I felt that 3.5 hours was a perfect length of time for what the game was trying to accomplish. If the game had been longer, I definitely would have felt cheated by how much time was spent in the early 2000's (Final Fantasy IX and beyond). If the game were to have been twice as long, I feel that more time would have been spent playing as Gameboy Clink, or maybe even started at an earlier point in gaming history, such as with the Atari or the Intellivision.
All of that aside, again, I really enjoyed Evoland. I feel that I was able to pick up on most of the references to video game history. Even non-video game history, but general fantasy works, such as including A'Tuin from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Other references include Super Mario Bros., Diablo, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Final Fantasy VII and a whole helluva lot more, which is where I found a lot of the fun with Evoland. I'm sure/positive that there were references that I didn't get, but I can't/won't mention them because I don't know what they were, hence the not getting the references bit.
It kind of reminded me of the way that "Weird Al" does his parodies. They are often shorter versions of the original songs, but he gets his point across with what he's trying to do, although this is not always the case.
I will say that around the time that the game took on it's definite Final Fantasy VII and beyond tone, I did lose some interest. Upgrades to the look and mechanics of the game became less and less and treasure chests which once held quips directed towards the video game industry and semi-ridiculousness of certain RPG rules, these chests started to contain Stars and Cards (Stars are there just to collect and Cards are used for a TCG, similar to the game card game used in Final Fantasy IX). I felt as if I had reached the pinnacle of game development too soon as there was at least another hour of gameplay left.
Unlike Dr. Potts, I don't know if I see myself going through the game again, even knowing what I now know about the overall length of the game. The story was not very engaging, but I never felt that the story was a driving part of the narrative, or lack thereof. It would be like playing Final Fantasy IV minus emotional investment and 50 hours of additional gameplay and story arcs. So then why even play Evoland? Because it's a game that knows who its target audience is and I like getting the references to other video games that I played 20 years ago. In short, because Evoland is fun.
You know, I could easily see this concept used for other over-arching gaming genres such as Doom-style FPS' or even a Streets of Rage / Double Dragon type brawler-beat-em-up. Although at the moment, it looks like Shiro Games is in development of a multiplayer adventuring game called Until Dark, which by the name and font alone sounds promising. And now, a new video game development company to keep our collective eyes on.
A Future That Ain't What It Used To Be
A Future That Ain't What It Used To Be